With yoga mats slung underneath their arms, a trail of students made their way across campus to the Chapel on Saturday, April 9. As the Chapel bells rang for 10 a.m., the first On-Campus Mindfulness Retreat began.

The idea for the retreat was developed a month earlier by Chaplain Jeff McArn and Chaplaincy meditation intern Emma Reynolds ’17.  They decided that instead of applying for funding to send a specific number of students to an off-campus mindfulness retreat, they would bring the retreat to campus. They decided to use internal sources for workshops. Five different workshops led by five women – all college community members – added up to a day centered on mindfulness and covering myriad interests.

Attended by 17 students and faculty members, the program began with a yoga class led by Naomi Guttman, professor of literature and creative writing. Sarah Jillings, assistant director of outdoor leadership, was the next presenter. Her workshop, titled “Leaning into the Discomfort of Living: Criteria for Living a Meaningful Life,” dealt with vulnerability, shame, their respective roles in building relationships and satisfaction.

Paula Ortiz ’18, head of Hamilton’s Meditation Club, launched the afternoon session with two guided meditations. With the first, she introduced participants to the idea of chakras, focusing on the color emitted by each one and slowly moving from the root chakra to the crown chakra.  Later, participants asked questions and talked about their experiences during each meditation. The group then headed to the fitness center.

Susie Hamilton, a regular teacher of yoga and spinning classes at the college, led a session of Kripalu yoga. Her class, which began and ended with herbal essences, included a brief history of some of the vocabulary of yoga and focused on the ideas of acceptance and joy.

The Mindfulness Retreat ended at the Wellin Museum, where students were led by Amber Spadea, the Wellin’s school and community programs educator. Spadea provided watercolors, markers, rocks and small canvases for a session of Zen Doodling. This free-flowing art utilizes the same area of the brain as is activated during meditation. Those who were new to the Wellin were invited to take a tour, and later, some of the Wellin student staff joined in the Zen Doodling. The day concluded around 4:30 p.m., as students left, yoga mats and Zen doodles in hand.

In the future, McArn and Reynolds hope to conduct an overnight mindfulness retreat and to make a day-long retreat an annual event.

Recoup and Soup is a weekly event held at noon on Thursdays on the third floor of the Chapel. All members of the Hamilton community are welcome to participate in a 20-minute silent meditation followed by soup and conversation.

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